L'America

116 minutes 1995

This masterful and extremely moving 1995 feature by Gianni Amelio (Open Doors, Stolen Children) is a powerful piece of storytelling that recalls some of the best Italian neorealist films. An Italian con artist (Enrico Lo Verso) tries to set up a fake corporation in postcommunist Albania in order to get his hands on state subsidies; with his business partner, he digs up a traumatized 70-year-old former political prisoner to serve as the phony president of his phony company, but the poor creature—whose memory, like Albania's links with the outside world, seems to have frozen a half century earlier—keeps wandering away. (Finding the old man at one point shoeless in a hospital, the hero is able to reclaim him only when the wife of another patient, silently realizing her husband will never leave his bed again, offers her husband's shoes—a beautiful bit of silent exposition that perfectly illustrates Amelio's uncanny gifts of suggestion and implication.) The story only grows in dimension and resonance as it proceeds, becoming an epic, multifaceted portrayal of a postcommunist Europe awakened from its slumbers by TV and consumerism—as illuminating a portrait of what's happening in the world as we can find in movies. As the title suggests, it also has something to do with America and what it represents—or used to represent—for others. With Michele Placido. In Italian with subtitles.

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